History of Saint Lucia

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Saint Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America around 200-400 CE. Numerous archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the Arawak's' well-developed pottery. There is evidence to suggest that these first inhibitors called the island Iouanalao, which meant 'Land of the Iguanas', due to the island's high number of iguanas.

Caribs gradually replaced Arawak's during the period from 800 to 1000 CE[citation needed] They called the island Hewanarau, and later Hewanorra. This is the origin of the name of the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort. The Caribs had a complex society, with hereditary kings and shamans. Their war canoes could hold more than 100 men and were fast enough to catch a sailing ship. They were later feared by the invading Europeans for their ferocity in battle.


European invasion

Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean. The Dutch, English, and French all tried to establish trading outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th century but faced opposition from Caribs whose land they were occupying.

17th century

The French pirate Francois le Clerc (also known as Jambe de Bois, due to his wooden leg) frequented Saint Lucia in the 1550s. It was not until years later, around 1600, that the first European camp was started by the Dutch, at what is now Vieux Fort. In 1605, an English vessel called the Olive Branch was blown off-course on its way to Guyana, and the 67 colonists started a settlement on Saint Lucia. After five weeks, only 19 survived, due to disease and conflict with the Caribs, so they fled the island.

The French officially claimed the island in 1635 but it was the English who started the next European settlement in 1639, which was wiped out by the Caribs. It was not until 1651 that the French came, this time from Martinique. Commanded by De Rousselan, the French held the island until his death in 1654.

In 1664, Thomas Warner (son of the governor of St Kitts) claimed Saint Lucia for England. He brought 1,000 men to defend it from the French, but after two years, only 89 survived, mostly due to disease. For years after this, the island was officially traded back and forth between the English and the French in various treaties, as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

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